Holy Week starts on Palm Sunday when Jesus entered Jerusalem in his very brief triumph. By Wednesday, Judas had sold the life of his master for 30 pieces of silver.
Maundy Thursday is the day of the Last Supper. Known for making controversial statements, Jesus said the most controversial of all. After praying over the bread and wine, he declared that they were his body and blood, that his followers were to consume it, and that we were to continue to do it through the ages in his memory. From that time through the remainder of his passion, Jesus had no sleep and took no nourishment to help sustain him.
After the meal, as the emotional agony began to set in, Jesus sought communion with God the Father through prayer. Imagine that as the weight of the coming events settles upon you, your closest friends fall asleep and fail to provide their support.
Friday, in the Jewish Calendar, begins at darkness. Good Friday begins as you accept that your closest friends are not able to offer you any support at your hour of need.
Imagine the heartbreak of being betrayed by a friend with a kiss to be roughly seized, bound, mocked, and beaten as your friends and extended family flea. Left alone with your abusive captors, you are roughly dragged through the streets to be interrogated and humiliated by the aide to the High Priest, the High Priest, and the governing body of your faith. After being slandered by perjured testimony, you speak the truth, only to be called a blasphemer and condemned to die. The mission of your entire life was to save these ungrateful people.
Then one of your very best friends repeatedly denies knowing you with an oath.
Rejected by your faith, abandoned by your friends, you are delivered to the leader of the foreign power, which is oppressing your nation. After further questioning, you are dragged to your nations leader; a leader known for his cruelty and the ease with which he orders murder. Eventually, after being mocked, you are returned to the foreign power to be whipped until much of your flesh has been destroyed or removed from you body. As the blood pours on the ground, energy flows out of your body with it.
Beaten to the point where many would be near death, you are again held up to the public. Offered an opportunity to end your torture, your people instead demand the freedom of a brutal murderer and demand your execution. Your true crime; trying to bring your people closer to their God.
With your back looking like filthy bloody hamburger, 100 pounds of rough lumber is put on your back and shoulder and you are commanded to carry this for miles, up-hill, for the purpose of having the most cruel form of execution known imposed on you. You have had no sleep for more than a day and no food or drink in more than 12 hours.
At every step, the people you loved and served, blessed and healed, beat, mock, and spit upon you as you struggle to reach the place of your execution leaving a trail of blood behind you. How could you not want to die there on the road?
With the last of your strength, you reach the top of the hill and are thrown down onto this wooden cross. While two criminals are being tied to crosses, spikes are driven through your body into the wood.
Raised up into the air, the foot of the cross drops into a hole causing the spikes in hands and feet to tear your flesh. While your meager possessions are being taken by your killers, as the crowd watches, you are again mocked by one of the men being executed with you. In overwhelming agony, abandonment, and despair, it feels as though even God has left you.
Even death, which slowly comes, does not bring relief as the Devil and his minions are then permitted to have their way with you.
How terrible must be my sins, your sins, all of our sins? How grievously must we have individually and collectively offended our creator; our God who never leaves us as we turn our backs on him?
Among the punishments placed on Adam and Eve and their progeny was the closing of the Gates of Heaven. Closed until atonement could be made with the only sacrifice capable of redeeming all our sins.
On Easter, the promises of the Old Testament were fulfilled. On Easter there is redemption. With open arms, our lord waits to welcome his prodigal children into his Kingdom should we only chose to accept his invitation. An invitation open even at the eleventh hour.
Following the Jewish lunar calendar, Easter is always on the first Sunday following the first full Moon of Spring. Perhaps this year, our souls could benefit from a little Spring cleaning. How much of that agony was caused by me, by you?
On Good Friday, between noon-3 p.m., perhaps each of us should take a few minutes to ponder these thoughts. Measure the suffering of your body, the pain in your heart, and the wounds in your soul, and measure them against the wounds of the One who suffered for our redemption. Perhaps the suffering that each one of us endure is not as great as we thought. Perhaps as Easter opens before us we can forgive and accept the forgiveness that has been waiting for us.